[From Manx Soc vols 25+28 - Blundell's History]



ALTHOUGH it be little to the purpose, yet it is not altogether impertinent nor independent, to say something of the Coat of Armes belong unto the Kings and Island of Man, Mr. Cambden is deservedly acknowledged for the most learned Antiquary and ye greatest Cronographer of our nation, who needeth not my encomium. His works show his worth ; for by his Britanrtia he hath merited an eternal laurel. The title he still bare of Clarentieux (which is the title of ye 2d King of Arms), doth moreover intimate him for an exact herauld, for of the 3 degrees among the heraulds ye 3 Kings are of the 1st and highest class.

Out of him I first learned yt there was a more ancient Coat of Arms belonging to the Island of Man, and far differing from yt which is born at present and by him. I understand it was a ship, for thus he there saith yt the Kings of Man used for their arms a ship in her ruffs, yt is with her sails hoised up.

I have seen, in their seal belonging to the King of Man, which be thus describeth (for he doth not blazon it), a ship with sails hoised up, with this title in the circumference,— " Rex Manie et Insularum." I confess I expected more and more satisfying from a king of arms ; but I conceive yt Mr. Cambden employed his talent and time more in searching out of antiquity then in herauldry, for he neither expresseth here neither metal or colour either of field or charge ; and if you will call it a blazon, it is his own and not the herald’s; for they say the King of Man beareth a ship under sail, for the ship when she saileth hath necessarily her sails hoised up, for otherwise the ship cannot sail. But the most accurate and neat blazon yt I have observed is yt which I found in a gentleman’s work of the Inner Temple, and no herauld, as I shall show you here when I shall have occasion to speak of the ship of Zabulon.

I have been long of late, ever since I left Man, wanting opportunity, being there in quest, both in person and by others, to find out (if possible) yt there were any other more antient arms to be found for the Isle of Man, and particularly whether it ever bare ye ship ; but neither any herauld nor arms’ painter yt were consulted withal woud either believe or admit of any other arms to appertain, or hath at any time been appertaining, to the Isle of Man, but only its legs. Yet I confide in Mr. Cambden, whom I have observed to have written with that candor and sincerity as yt there hath not hitherto any one appeared in print yt could accuse him of making a lie. It may well be he may sometimes be found to tell an untruth (when, in his Britannia, he is forced to relate other men’s relations and traditions, etc.), wch Sr Thos Moor doth more than tollerate, for he used to say yt of the 2 he had rather tell a lie than make a lie. Let our charity judge the best, for he saith he did see the saile ; ‘ and therefore I believe the old Arms of the Isle of Man was a ship—yea, and yt most meet and fitting, first, because, floating in the ocean, it much resembleth a moveable island, and an island resembleth a ship fixed there ; 2dly. To demonstrate the comodious scituation of this Island for traffique and trading into England, Scotland and Ireland,—yea, unto France and Spain ; 3dly. To demonstrate the comodiousness and security of the 4 principal havens of this Island to en-tertain ships from any part, under whose shelter they may ride safely and securely.

The Patriarch Jacob, on his deathbed, blessing Lea’s first son Zabulon, prophecied of his future fortunes, saying:

Zabulon shall dwell at ye haven of the sea, and he shall be for an haven of ships ; and therefore a ship was by antiquity given for the ensign of the tribe of Zebulon. Yet you may observe his dwelling did but extend only unto the sea, and had not so much as an island belonging unto its tribe ; for as Moses, who also, at his latter end, blessing the 12 Tribes of Israel, saith Zebulom shoud only sue/c the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hidden in the sands, but not to have any habitation in the sea, so as Zebulon gave the ship because of yt coffiodiousness of his scituation to entertain ships.

Now concerning the blazon of this ship, Mr. Thos Fuller, in his Pisgah Sight, saith yt Zabulon gave for its coat of arms Argent a Ship with her sails Sable ; but the gentleman2 whom I spake of above differeth from him both in ye metal of the ferald and yG blazon, saying Zabulon beareth Or—a ship in her ruff sables. But farther, concerning this bearing of the ship, and Mr. Cambden saying it belonged to a king of Man, because I have at large written of it before, and showed you in all probability yt it belonged to Macon, King of Man and ye Isles, for yt he was ye admiral of King Edgar 360 ships, I shall not trouble ye reader here with farther repetitions of the same.

But much might Mr. James Chaloner, now resident there, merit, both of the Isle of Man, of our heraulds, and of posterity ; and I presume none coud better perform it who hath so laudably begun. My hopes and hearty wishes are yt he woud persevere to perfect this worthy description of the island lately published. If he wou’d be pleased to search and renew the monuments within the island, especially within our Ladies Chapel in Castle Town, and in the ruined Monastery of Bala-Saly, where were the sepulchres of divers of the kings of Man, as also at the Bishop’s Seat in Balacuri, Peel Church, or wheresoever else he shall think fit, and to observe ye glass windows in those or any part else of the island ; for there are yet some arms, I myself observ’d, in the governor’s house, over against the castle, and cross in the market-place, in Castle Town. In the upper end of the great room there had been set up the arms of Wm Montague, Earl of Salisbury, who conquered ye island, but now not only battered and broken, but in the eschocheon displaced and almost reversed and in these to observe whether there were a ship borne in the shield of any of the Kings of Man, and to observe the colours if possible, etc.

Now, concerning the arms since assumed by the Kings, and are still borne by the Lords of Man, they are these.

Mr. Cambden saith the Kings of Man do now bear ~ armed legs link’d together and bendeth in the hams, wthoul more ; so as we are to speak, I say seek what colour or meta do belong to these, but what we find in him. Another3 of his own coat, but of a lower class, will supply and satisfy m who thus blazoneth the late arms of Man, and more like ar herauld. The King of Man beareth gules 3 armed legs proper or rather argent, conjoined in fess at the upper part of th thigh, fleshed, in triangle, garnished and spurred topaz (yt is) or, gold.

But concerning the motive or cause why, when, and b’ whom, this coat of arms was substituted in place of the othe (ye ship), if Mr. Cambden had vouchsafed, which it may b he wou’d if he cou’d, to have left in his tract of ye Britis] Isles yt least discovery, he shou’d have obliged posterity, for we have not yet (but almost even despair if ye Scottish heraulds cannot assist to find to our satisfaction any where). The most probable opinion conjectured is, yt ye arms of Man were altered and 3 leggs substituted by ye Scots, about 300 years past, for before we find no mention made of them ; but after Alexander ye 3d, King of Scotland, had 1st conquered the Isle of Man and ye Western Isles, about 40 years after Robt Bruce conquered it again, about anno 1308, and gave ye island unto Robt Randalph, Earl of Murray, who quartered the 3 leggs in his own coat of arms.

And after him the Duke of Albany did the same. Thus much hath Cambden4 discovered unto us. 2dly We may observe yt so long as the King of Man wrote himself Rex Manie et Insularum, they bare the ship ; but after the Scots had gotten into their possession both the Isle of Man and the Western Islands, we find no arms born by them than the 3 leggs only. In this manner it was not first invented by the Scots, for long before them the Island of Sicily did not only bear in their arms, but also stamped them upon their coins, 3 naked leggs, joined in the upper part of ye thigh, and fleshed, in triangle, in the same manner as ye Island of Man doth. But wherein doth this further or assist us in our quest ? for all geographers and antiquity unanimously do agree yt the Island of Sicily bear them to denote thereby the 3 promontories and its triple form, whence that island then was called Trinacria and Triquetra, which the ancient Greeks expressed by the letter , delta ; but the form of ye Isle of Man is long and narrow, in no manner triangular. It is true 3 of ye principal towns of Man—Castle Town, Douglas, and Peel, do stand triangular ; but what doth this concern ye island ? A little nearer to a verisimile came a late writer,2 who supposeth ye 3 leggs were given to the Isle of Man as having reference to 3 kingdoms, England, Scotland, and Ireland. But the natives of Man will not admit of any such thing, for a true Manksman will make no difficulty to express his undervaluing the 2 later, namely, ye Irish and Scots, in respect of his respects unto England. Wherefore they gave another more neat interpretation of this mystery, and boldly will tell you yt with ye one of ye leggs they do spurn at Ireland, and with the spur of ye other leg they do kick at Scotland, and with the 3d leg they bow unto England. But there is a great difference in the bearing of the 3 leggs of Sicily and these of Man, for those of Sicily are naked, those of Man are armed. But where shall we find the true cause of bearing ‘em ? Probably, being armed, they may denote 3 conquests of the island. The Manksmen, as you may observe, both by the Cronicle, and by their Tradition in the chapter precedent, take no notice but of 3 conquests only of their country, ye first by Mana-man-mac-Lea ; ye 2d by Godred Crovan ; ye 3d by Alexander, ye 3d King of Scotd; for, as for the conquest of y~ island by King Arthur and King Edwin, etc., they are not so much as once mentioned; the reason may be that, tho’ they conquered it yet they did not possess it ; but indeed their 3 most remarkable con-quests were of the Danes, Norwegians, and Scots. I presume (as I intimated before) yt the Scots were the first yt are known to have introduced the bearing of the 3 leggs armed. If so (and the armed leggs do denote 3 conquests), we have reason to presume they were 3 conquests of Man and the Islands, made by the Scots, whereof the last was made by Robt. Bruce, King of the Scots, ye 2d and next before yt was made by Alexander the 3d, King of Scotland. But where shall we find one another and make up ye third conquest of them ? except it be before our Saviour’s Incarnation, when ye Druids resided there, w~’ was above 1266 years before, which I much mislike, wherefore I will insist no longer upon meer conjectures and verisimiles. I advise those yt think this curiosity worthy their search to address themselves to ye Scottish heraulds, who first invented those armes, and therefore doe best know the reason why. I have here only one note to add in honour of the Island, yt from all antiquity it hath been even honoured with a coat of armes, which was never permitted either to ye Island of Anglisey, Wight, Garnsey, Jeansay, or any other island subject to ye monarchy of Great Brittaine, Ireland only excepted.


1 [See the facsimile of the Seal of Harald, King of Man, AD. 1245-6, in the Fifth Volume of the Manx series ; the originals are pendant to two charters of Harald, in the Cottonian Manuscripts, in the British Museum. —Editor.J

2 Gerard Leigh, in his Accidance of Armory.

3 John Guillim

4 Brit. Isles, p. 214.

5 Gerard Leigh, in his Elements of Armory.


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